Kyoto-based technology company created a neural network that’s an idol otaku, then set if free to daydream of its perfect idols.

Kyoto’s DataGrid has released a video that makes it look like the organization is on the path to certain success in the idol singer sphere. In just 30 seconds, the video shows off dozens of fresh-faced idols, smiling for the camera with the perfect blend of modernly cute and fashionable looks without crossing over into potentially intimidatingly trendy styles.

Of course, there’s no indication of how they sound, but that’s not such a big issue. Selling idol CDs and concert tickets is as much about image as music, and you can smooth out any singular off-note performance as long as you have enough vocalists sharing the stage, which doesn’t look like it’d be a problem for DataGrid.

But these girls aren’t actually capable of standing on a stage. See, the morphing effect in the video, as well as DataGrid’s scientific-sounding name, aren’t tips of the hat to geeky computer-loving otaku. DataGrid is a technology company affiliated with Kyoto University, and all of the idols seen in the video are actually computer-generated images.

Of course, we’ve seen high-quality CG from Japan before, like with artificial schoolgirl Saya. What really makes DataGrid’s idols special is that they weren’t designed by a person, but by AI.

▼ We’re now living in a world where both idols and anime characters can be generated by AI.

DataGrid created a GAN (generative adversarial network), which consists of two separate neural networks. The first network fed facial images of existing, real-world idol singers into the second network, which then analyzed them to determine the special characteristics that constitute an “idol face.” In other words, DataGrid turned a neural network into an experienced idol otaku, then had it display the mental pictures it had formed of idolness, which explains why the video can feel viewers feeling like they know they’ve seen these idols before, but just can’t remember exactly where.

DataGrid has no plans to actually debut its idol group, and while it’d be a simple enough task to cast voice actresses or craft Vocaloid singing voices for them, the technology behind the visuals doesn’t allow for animation, so music videos, or concerts with holographic projections, wouldn’t be an option. That said, posters, photo albums, and other still image-adorned merchandise is a major revenue stream for idol talent agencies, and on that front, DataGrid could probably start making money anytime it wants to.

Source: DataGrid
Images: YouTube/株式会社データグリッド
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he can’t see video morphing effects without being reminded of the ill-fated PC-FX video game console.

[ Read in Japanese ]